July 22, 2015

PHOTOS: Onboard With the A350 XWB’s Americas Demo Tour

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Written by: Jason Rabinowitz
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There are very few things that will get me to Newark Airport from Long Island by 6:45am. The opportunity to fly on board an Airbus A350 to Chicago as a part of the A350XWB Americas Tour is one of those things.

19209019583_7c5e698131_zHidden away on a remote hard stand by a USPS facility, the A350 was shining in the early morning sun. Even before the crew arrived to start the day, airport employees were circling the aircraft, checking out the mysterious airplane with the odd carbon fiber livery. After a few minutes of gawking at the new aircraft from the outside and posing for photos, it was time to button it up and head over to Chicago O’Hare, where United employees were waiting to check out their future aircraft.

The A350 was rather empty for this flight, so I had free reign to sit wherever I wanted. I chose to sit up front so I could get a great view of the Rolls Royce Trent XWB engines and “sharklet,” Airbus’ latest generation swooping blended winglet. As we rolled onto Newark’s runway 22R, the engines spooled up, but the cabin stayed remarkably quiet, the hallmark of the new breed of airliners.

While this A350, MSN002, is fitted with a full passenger cabin, there are flight test instruments and sensors scattered all over. A temperature sensor here, pressure sensor there, mysterious tech attached to the windows and ceiling, every flight is used to gather terabytes of data which is used to measure the aircraft’s performance. It all gets routed to a central control station mid-cabin, where two Airbus engineers monitor and manipulate the data as the flight occurs. Avionics, engine performance, exterior cameras, it’s all just a mouse click away.

Testing Collage

19207266514_78b760ede3_kMSN002 is fitted with two Business Class cabins with seats manufactured by Airbus subsidiary Stelia Aerospace, as well as Economy Class seats from B/E Aerospace. The Business Class seats on MSN002 are your typical staggered full-flat seats with no real surprises. Down back, however, is where the A350 XWB really gets its name. XWB stands for “extra wide body,” but it’s more than just a marketing gimmick. From sidewall to sidewall, the A350 is 221 inches wide, whereas A330 and A340 are 222 inches wide on the outside. This provides a few extra inches in the cabin, which makes for a noticeable difference.

The Economy Class seats are about 18 inches wide in this 3-3-3 configuration, which proved to be quite comfy on this short ride. Airlines have the option to configure their A350 in with 10-abreast seats, which will reduce that level of comfort a bit. However, the A350 has some other tricks up its sleeves. Airbus has crammed all that in-flight entertainment wiring under the cabin floor, so the seat rails are flush with the floor, and those space hogging seat boxes have vanished.

Before I knew it, we were on final approach to Chicago O’Hare where United employees were waiting for their turn to fly the aircraft on a short demo flight. United is a customer of the A350-1000, while MSN002 is the shorter -900 model. Once it returned, the A350 was towed to a maintenance hangar where United employees were free to tour the aircraft. It was great to see the excitement amongst the employees waiting on line to enter the A350. Mechanics compared parts to the aircraft they currently work on, flight attendants marveled at the roomy galley and high tech features, and pilots toured the flight deck and played with the enormous flight displays.

After just one day, MSN002 flew from Chicago to Milwaukee, a route normally reserved for the CRJ200. It will remain at MKE for a few days until EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, where tens of thousands of aviation geeks will eagerly await a chance to see one of the aviation industry’s newest flagships.

Can’t see the slideshow above? Head on over to the Flickr gallery!

Jason Rabinowitz is a true #AvGeek who researches topics about airlines, airplanes and travel. He has become especially adept at reviewing IFEC systems and other inflight products, and is Routehappy’s Data Research Manager. Email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @AirlineFlyer

About the Author

Jason Rabinowitz



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